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Fatty Acid Levels May Help Predict Psychosis

Fatty Acid Levels May Help Predict Psychosis

A new psychosis prediction model that takes into account fatty acid levels is 70 percent accurate in predicting psychosis in “ultra-high risk” patients (those who are at greatest risk of having their first psychotic episode within 12 months).

The model, developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Psychiatry, is a significant improvement over the 28 percent accuracy of current criteria for patients at ultra-high risk. Importantly, the new model takes into account the patients’ fatty acid levels, including omega-3 and nervonic acid, which have been shown in previous studies to affect one’s risk of psychosis.

The new model combines medical history, the latest bedside clinical assessment, and biomarkers of fatty acids to determine a patient’s risk of psychosis. In this preliminary study, the researchers used data from 40 European patients.

“Of those patients who are considered to be ‘ultra-high risk’, only about 30 percent of them go on to experience a psychotic episode in the long-term,” said lead author Dr. Scott Clark from the Discipline of Psychiatry. “A more reliable and flexible method of prediction is needed to tailor care appropriately for the people who need it most.”

“Our model represents an enrichment of the diagnostic process,” said Clark. “Currently all patients in the ultra-high risk group are considered to have a similar chance of a future psychotic episode, however we have been able to identify high, intermediate, and low-risk groups. The model may help clinicians to decide when a patient’s risk of psychosis outweighs any side effects of treatment.”

The probability model developed by Clark and colleagues takes into account the critical role of fatty acids as well as mental health assessments.

“Fatty acids such as omega-3 and nervonic acid are critical for the normal functioning of the brain, and low levels have been associated with the development of psychosis in high-risk groups,” said Clark.

“In our model, fatty acid levels provided improved accuracy of prediction when patients were at intermediate risk following clinical assessment.”

Clark says clinical trials based on this model could occur within the near future.

“We’re very encouraged by the results of our studies so far, some of which we are replicating in a larger Australian sample in collaboration with the Orygen group in Melbourne. The modeling technique has been taken up by other researchers nationally and internationally,” said Clark.

The findings are published in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry.

Source: University of Adelaide

Fatty Acid Levels May Help Predict Psychosis

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Fatty Acid Levels May Help Predict Psychosis. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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